So you've seen Scarface, the Public Enemy, Little Ceasar, The Roaring Twenties, and G-Men. You're in the mood for another rat-a-tat-tat 1930's gangster movie, but you think you've seen them all over and over again. Then up pops Let 'Em Have It on a sparkling Classic Media/Sony DVD, and it's just the ticket! This tough, no-nonsense cops and robbers movie, showcasing the newly reorganized FBI's battle against organized crime, parallels Warner Brothers' classic G-Men in theme and presentation. It may therefore seem derivative, but only because G-Men is better known. If fact the two movies were released only two weeks apart in May 1935, which means the two were being filmed at the same time. Apparently neither had any influence on the other.
In some respects Let 'Em Have It is a better picture than G-Men in spite of a "B" cast and production by a small independent Edward Small with distribution by United Artists. More restrained and therefore more believable than the flamboyant Warner Cagney vehicle, Let 'Em Have It is directed with style and dash by the great Sam Wood. Thankfully the training stage of the three young FBI agents, Richard Arlen, Harvey Stephens, and Gordon Jones, is handled with a few brief scenes instead of taking up a third of the running time as in G-Men. Certainly Arlen is not as dynamic a leading man as Cagney, but he's sincere and quite competent. Jones, usually in a clown role, plays it more straight here with only a few jokes as a character named Tex. But he's serious and deadly when on the trail of the crooks. Stephen's character, an Ivy League type formerly engaged to the leading lady and early intended kidnap victim Virginia Bruce, adds a touch of class to the trio of feds. The gorgeous Ms Bruce is a much better love interest for Arlen than Cagney had for G-Men in frigid Margaret Lindsay. Never mind the action sequences, the gowns worn by the statuesque Virginia Bruce are the excitement in this show! Wow! She could act, too.
But this picture is carried by Bruce Cabot's performance as the cruel but charismatic leader of the murderous gang of kidnappers and bank robbers. He is totally ruthless, yet capable of acting slick, harmless, and innocent when it suits his purposes. His poor old honest mom, like the mothers of all delinquents still thinks he is "a good boy." Cabot had an occasional lead roll in his long career, most notably King Kong (1933) and Flame of New Orleans (1941). He could handle a good guy roll, but like Mae West, he was much better when he was bad. He's bad, bad, bad in Let 'Em Have It. His rendition of the scummy, amoral, murdering, unredeemed, yet fascinating criminal is up with Cagney in White Heat (1949) and Bogart in The Desperate Hours (1955).
Every gangster has to have his moll, and Cabot has two here. Joyce Compton is suitably hard-baked, no-class dame as the fatally fashion conscious accomplice in the gang's crime spree. When she gets captured by the cops, her place in the head thug's affections is taken over by a young Barbra Pepper, looking incredibly like a "B" Jean Harlow. Fans of TV screwball comedy series Green Acres will remember the aged Ms Pepper as the "mother" of the world's smartest pig Arnold Ziffel.
Let 'Em Have It is a well-acted, well-directed, well-filmed crime melodrama, precisely paced with plenty of action, good dramatics, intelligent script, and crisp dialog. While no doubt produced on a low budget, it never looks cheap. Sets are first rate with lots of outdoor scenes, many night scenes. Refreshingly absent is the official voice-over that often mars later police procedure pictures of this type. First rate in every way, it compares favorably to most of the Warner Brothers gangster cycle. Smooth, enjoyable entertainment from Hollywood's classic era.
17 out of 18 found this helpful